You might even cut your sugar consumption too!
This last weekend I took my dogs for a walk along a section of the rural road where I live. I had not been on this section of road since the snow melted and was shocked to see the amount of garbage along the side of the road and into the edges of the woods. One of my dogs likes to put things in his mouth and this makes garbage a real problem for me.
The next day I took my gardening wagon, garbage and recycle bags and dogs along to pick up garbage. Along this two kilometre stretch of road I picked up total of two large garbage bags full of trash. Nearly all the garbage was single use beverage containers including pop bottles, beer cans, coffee cups and lids there were also a few food containers and cigarette packets. I still have another section of road to clean up and from what I have seen it will be mostly the same types of garbage.
I have three major issues associated with the huge consumption of single use beverage containers.
- The resources use to make and dispose of these containers
- A large percentage of the drinks that are sold in these containers are full of sugar and chemical additives.
- Large amounts of water (a public resource) are being extracted for profit by companies and then being shipped around the world in containers made of oil (plastic), using oil as a fuel in ships and trucks.
We hear a lot about plastic in the oceans and waterways and not so much about plastic waste on land. The fact is that the approximate number of single use cups used in the USA is 48 billion, Canada 5 billion, the UK 2.5 billion, Australia 1 billion. So the total number of disposable coffee cup use in these four countries with a total population of approximately 450 million is approximately 57,000,000,000!
A very large percentage of these cups end up in landfill sites, or strewn around the countryside or waterways.
When it comes to plastic drinks bottles, there were 480 billion plastic bottles produced globally in 2016, with less than half of those being recycled and only seven percent being reused as drinking bottles. These numbers are staggering.
The number of single use beverage containers, their cost, environmental and health impacts really hit home for me a couple of years ago. I was working in a small office and was often the person that emptied the garbage and separated out recyclables. The main contents of the bin were single use food and beverage containers.
Bottled water was being drunk by people in the office when there was perfectly good, free, clean and decent tasting water in the taps. There was also lots of coffee, cappuccino cups and pop bottles. The sugar content of many of these drinks was really high. The two coworkers that were the worst offenders also tended to complain of financial issues and had health issues related to sugar and weight.
Not all uses of single use containers are bad
I am not knocking all plastic water bottle use as there are times when the plastic water bottle is useful. When I worked on road construction projects, there were times when we worked in rural areas and had to pack all our own foods and drinks. There were no hand washing facilities, so for the sake of hygiene, single use plastic bottles were useful. The other time I can think of is during emergencies and some disasters where being able to hand out drinks in a sanitary manner but these uses are only the tiniest drop in the bucket of our current use.
Sugar and Additive Consumption
For me the other huge issue with the numbers of these single use bottles and cups is what we are consuming in them. Pop, energy drinks, sweetened coffee, sweetened fruit drinks and teas, flavoured water and bottled water are frequently consumed in these disposable cups and bottles.
In Canada a study commissioned by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Diabetes Association found that pop consumption is going down but the sales of other sweetened beverages have risen substantially. Of greatest concern is that children 8 and under consume 326 millilitres (11 oz) of sugar sweetened beverages a day, youth between 9 and 18 consume 578 millilitres (19 oz) and adults 19-30 drink about 500 millilitres (17 oz) per day.
Many of the most popular sweetened beverages contain about 2-4g of sugar per 30 millilitres or 1 fluid oz. This means that children 8 and under are consuming roughly 22-44 g or 2-4 tablespoons (tbsp) of sugar, youths are consuming a whopping 39-77 g (3-6 tbsp) of sugar and younger adults are consuming 33-67g (3-5 tbsp) of sugar in these drinks. This is huge and probably accounts for a large portion sugar related health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Moving Water Around
Freshwater is a really precious resource, only 2.5% of water on our planet is freshwater, the rest is saltwater. The amount of clean freshwater is even smaller.
Water is also heavy with a mass of 1 kg per litre, making it expensive to transport. We use a large amount of water to make plastic and then put water or sugary, fizzy, coloured water into a bottle. We then ship it around the country or world using ships and trucks that required oil to be made and use oil to fuel them. Oil production uses water too. We then go shopping using our vehicles which require yet more oil. We take the water home or to restaurants or convenience stores and then often refrigerate the water all of which uses more oil and water. This is total insanity! Especially when in most developed countries I can just go to a tap or water fountain and drink safe, clean water and at worst have to filter it to improve the taste.
7 Reasons to Ditch Using Single-Use Beverage Containers
Simple Ways to Cut your use of Single-Use Beverage Containers (and sugar consumption)